Jodi pulled her car to a halt outside her father’s house with a feeling of trepidation creeping over her. The house loomed in front of her, the Gothic style with its narrow, tall peaked roofs, decorative stones and many columns and arches appeared no more welcoming than when she’d been a child living here.
She looked across and saw Quinn’s car was already here. Quinn was her younger brother who had been living god only knows where recently. It was a good job he always had a topped up pay as you go mobile phone – she couldn’t contact him any other way.
As she walked to the heavy wooden front door she took a deep breath and knocked using the ugly doorknocker she’d always despised. Waiting, waiting, waiting, no one answered the door so she tried the handle whilst calling “Hello”. Nothing, but as she entered the house she knew someone was there. She heard a noise from the back of the house but steadily gazed around. Everything was as she remembered it even down to the portrait of her father hanging halfway up the giant staircase. She truly hated that picture; he just looked so pompous, pretty much like his everyday life really.
She passed the office where her father had set desks up for her and Quinn to study and do homework. Their father had quite often locked them in this room when they were younger to keep them out of his way. Jodi had found reading and writing more difficult than most children as she was dyslexic and had experienced major problems with words as a child.
Her mother had been so patient, happily spending time helping her daughter overcome her learning difficulties. Jodi had missed her terribly since the divorce. Her father had agreed to the divorce but the children had, unfortunately, had to stay with him.
She carried on further into the house calling “Hello” again. She heard a reply from Quinn, “In here, by the pool.” He sounded strange, not the usual Quinn. It could be the room distorting his voice, she thought. She hurried through to the extension where the pool was and stopped short with an audible gasp.
Her father was in the pool, in the deep end but not swimming. He was face down in the water, not moving. Sheer terror bolted through her body. “Oh my god, do something, help him Quinn.” “I can’t swim,” came the reply. “Neither can I, what can we do?” she wailed frantically.
“He’s gone Jodi, he’s gone. He fell, he slipped on the tiles, he fell, he hit his head and then fell into the water, the deep end.” As her legs gave way, Quinn caught her and went silent. “What are we going to do?” Jodi asked. “Do we call the police, an ambulance, what?” “No, none of them.” Quinn’s cold reply shocked Jodi. She turned to face him; she wanted to see his face, his eyes. “What do you mean? We have to do something!”
“No, we don’t. He demands our presence here today, again without any explanation as to why and…..
“Quinn, stop, for once I know why. He called yesterday from his solicitors; he’d changed his will. Everything you were inheriting he willed to me, to teach you a lesson, from the deeds to this house to the ownership of his business. Except he never wanted me to inherit anything, he intended to change it back in a week, a month, whenever you fell back in line. He told me so. That’s what he wanted to talk to you about today. Bit late now though I suppose.” Jodi surprised herself at how cold she now sounded.
“What? Why? That should all have come to me; I’m his son and heir, what’s going on?” Jodi held her tongue until Quinn had finished his outburst.
“You were ‘bumming around’ as he put it and he thought it the only way to teach you a lesson.” Quinn went to open his mouth again but Jodi stopped him. “Quinn, shut up and listen. I never agreed to this, I didn’t want anything from him. He feigned the title of philanthropist to the outside world while being nothing but a miserable bully at home while we were growing up. He never hit Mum but he psychologically abused her. She was a shell of her former self when she was finally able to leave him and move away where he couldn’t control her, that was when he finally accepted it was over.”
Quinn was astounded. “I never knew, Jodi, I never knew.” “You were young Quinn; she wanted it kept from you as we were having to stay here. It was too late for me, I’d seen it all – he knew I had lost respect for him but you doted on him, as all little boys do with their dads.”
“I wasn’t that little, I was 12 when she left.” “Yes, but you were away at school most of the time, I was here, at the local college.” Quinn looked past her, out the big glass window. “Did you blame him for the break up, her leaving?” He asked. “Honest answer, yes I did Quinn.” “You never said anything Jodi.” “I couldn’t, but why do you think I moved out after she left? She moved as far away as she could, I don’t know if you know but she’s recently settled in Barbados. I dearly wanted you to come with me but you were too young. He would never have let you come with me anyway. I think he saw himself in you. Until this past year I think he had the highest respect for you but that faltered when you decided to leave your job with the company and go travelling.”
“I didn’t want to be tied without having seen a little of the world, he knew that Jodi.” “Yes, I knew it too, but that’s not our main problem right now is it?” She said while gazing at the pool.
“I know exactly what we do!” exclaimed Quinn. “We go, we leave, we do nothing. He was perfectly fine today when we called in to see him, we talked about the Solicitor, the Will and everything, and I agreed to go back to work for him. We left him as he wanted to change and have a relaxing swim. The cleaners can find him. They come in once a fortnight and he told me before he fell that they were here yesterday. So his body will have been in the water the better part of two weeks before he’s found – and we are each other’s alibis. What do you think?” He looked over at her tentatively.
“Then what?” She smiled weakly at him. Quinn was soon back in full flow. “We wait till the cleaners raise the alarm, we wait till everything is cut and dry, so to speak, and then we organise a funeral service.”
“You know what I was thinking?” Jodi said, “When we were younger he always wanted to do a parachute jump, it was on something he called his bucket list, but he was either too lazy or fat to do one. Well, I’ve seen it advertised where a loved one can be cremated but instead of being buried or chucked in the sea or whatever, the ashes can be taken up in a plane and a skydiver empties the urn on the way down. What do you think?” “Yes, that sounds perfect” agreed Quinn “as so does both of us as joint partners in the house, the business and everything else, if you are willing to share your inheritance with me?” “Yes, that’s the only way I could see it working now, just promise you won’t disappear from the company to go travelling again, unless it’s with me and going to visit Mum.”
For the ‘Earth’ trigger from our ‘elements’ sequence:
Element of a crime by David Graham
‘Soil,’ DS Cage said, in response to the inspector’s puzzled expression.
‘Soil?’ the inspector said, without altering his expression.
‘Yes. The stuff you get in gardens,’ Cage said, patiently attempting to clarify the obvious.
‘In his throat?’
‘Yes. His entire trachea was blocked with soil.’
‘How did it get—? Was he—?’
‘Forcibly,’ Cage cut in, ‘With a stick. Or some such implement.’
‘So he was murdered?’
Cage resisted the urge to say something else, and responded with a controlled, ‘Yes. That does seem to be the case.’
The inspector fingered the edge of his desk. ‘Good lord,’ he said at length. ‘Choked to death, by soil. That’s bizarre.’
‘Yes,’ Cage said, and waited.
The inspector left off fingering the desk. ‘From the beginning again, Frank,’ he said.
Cage lowered his head to conceal his inhalation, and then slowly read from his PNB, ‘At nine fifty-three on the morning of Friday the seventeenth of June, a Mr. Julian Valance, a housekeeper, at number 9 Han Street—a leasehold property, off Eaton Square, in Belgravia—made a 999 call to report the discovery of the body of the deceased. Upon our arrival, myself, and DC Wales, found the body of the deceased on a sun lounger in the rear garden. Lacking any immediate evidence of foul play, or of a struggle, my initial assumption was that the decease had died of natural causes: possibly, a heart attack. On closer inspection of the body however, I discovered that the mouth was filled with what myself, and DC Wales, took to be some form of dark soil. On making that discovery, I immediately informed the Coroner’s office; arranged for the house and grounds to be sealed off, as a potential crime scene, and called in SOCO.’ Cage closed his notebook, and looked up.
‘And what did SOCO come up with?’ the inspector asked.
‘Jerry,’ Cage said patiently. ‘It’s all in my reports: and Paul’s.’
The inspector smiled, placed his forearms on the desk, and linked his fingers. ‘I know, Frank,’ he said. ‘I’ve read them. It’s just that I get a better feel for the case, if I hear the details. Indulge me.’
Cage relented somewhat. ‘SOCO came up with very little of substance,’ he said. ‘No signs of foul play, or of a struggle; either inside the premises, or in the grounds; and no fingerprints—or footprints, for that matter—other than those of the housekeeper, and the deceased.’
‘Only two sets of fingerprints?’ the inspector said sceptically. ‘In the whole of the house?’
‘Yes. Either the perpetrator, or perpetrators—I’ll wager there was more than one–wore gloves,’ Cage said, ‘or he, or they, took care not to touch anything. Probably both.’
‘And the Coroner’s report?’
‘That proved much more rewarding. And much more intriguing.’
‘Because the soil found in the deceased throat, is not found anywhere in the British Isles.’
‘It wasn’t from the deceases own garden?’
‘No. It came from a very long way away from there. A very long way indeed. It is a type of soil unique to a certain region of Iceland.’
‘Iceland? How on earth—sorry, no pun intended. How did soil, from Iceland, get into a man’s throat, in a garden, in central London?’
‘Well. I can only surmise that someone brought it over here.’
‘Someone brought soil all the way from Iceland. Just to force it down a man’s throat?’
‘It would seem so, yes.’
‘Good God. That’s positively macabre. What possible motive would anyone have for doing that?’
‘I don’t know for certain, yet. But I am fairly certain it wasn’t a random act. In fact I believe that the deceased was targeted.’
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Because of who the deceased is—I mean, was.’
‘His name was—is, Agust Himarsson, and up until eighteen months ago, he was a political correspondent for a weekly tabloid newspaper, based in the suburbs of Reykjavik. He left, under something of a cloud, when the paper refused to publish his accusation that certain, unnamed, Danish criminal elements, were attempting to use Iceland’s State owned Alcohol and Tobacco Company as a conduit to funnel their dirty money through offshore laundering accounts and receive it back cleaned. Eventually, he must have thrown caution to the wind, because he went public, and published his report online. Ironically, since the leak of the Panama papers, much of what he had to say, has proved to be pretty close to the bone.’
‘So you think that Danish criminals came over here and killed him?’
‘It’s possible. But because of the source of the soil, I suspect it was an Icelandic element: possibly sending a message; a warning, to anyone else who might be thinking of trying to exposing their setup.’
‘Well,’ the inspector said, sitting back, ‘if that is the case. I suppose we ought to hand it over to the Icelandic police.’
‘I agree,’ Cage said. ‘In fact, I was going to suggest that I go over there, and liaise with them.’
‘Mmm,’ the inspector murmured knowingly. ‘Maybe we should both go.’
After a moments consideration; they grinned, and said in unison, ‘Naw.’
David’s flash fiction response to our trigger ‘Air’. He is really moving into thriller mode.
STERLING STUFF by David R Graham 09.06.16
DI Walsh stood to one side and watched as Richard Sterling stepped from beneath the portal of the Old Bailey. Flanked by police officers, the multi-billionaire was immediately mobbed by a frenzied scrum of reports and cameramen. Head and shoulders above the hoard, Sterling had a broad grin on his overfed face.
‘HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE RESULTS OF YOUR CASE, RICH?’ A reporter shouted.
Sterling presented his pudgy palms to the babbling hoard, but his eyes were on DI Walsh when he said ‘I have always had the utmost admiration, confidence, and respect for the British justice system. Under its auspices, an innocent man can take comfort in the knowledge that he will be assured a fair hearing and a fair trial. My confidence in our system has been vindicated this morning. Having been presented with the Fraud Squad’s fabricated evidence; trumped up charges, and shoddy presentation. The jury had no hesitation in returning a not guilty verdict. I am an innocent man. The guilty, were my detractors.’
As tall as Sterling, Walsh was leaner and fitter. He was also seething with anger. His anger was not so much directed at Sterling as that of his own investigation team. Some of whom – without his knowledge – had tried to fabricate evidence against the crooked tycoon. The fact that he had no prior knowledge of the illegal methods his team had employed held no water for Walsh. He was in charge of the investigation.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW, RICH! ARE YOU GOING TO SUE!?’
‘No. I’m not going to sue! What I am going to do is have my chauffeur drive me to the airport. Then I’m going to get aboard my jet, and have my pilot fly me to Naples. Then I’m going to take a boat across the bay to Marina de Capri, go aboard my yacht, put to sea, and have one big, wild, celebratory party. I could be away for at least a week!’
On cue a bottle green Bentley drew to the kerb. A uniformed chauffeur unfolded his tall frame from behind the wheel, moved with catlike assurance round the vehicle, and opened the rear passenger door. Sterling gave Walsh a cold stare, then cut his way through the throng like an icebreaker and got into the vehicle. His aide, Charlie Haines, got in the other side. ‘Were you serious about the party?’ He asked when the vehicle had joined the light traffic.
‘I was. Organise it.’ Sterling said.
Sterling looked at him.
‘There were two contingencies, Rich.’ Haines said. ‘Prison. Or party.’
Sterling looked away. ‘And what if it had been prison?’ He said.
‘You wouldn’t have wanted for anything.’
‘I would have wanted for one thing,’ Sterling said looking back. ‘Freedom.’
‘You have that now. The yacht is ready and waiting. It’s loaded with beautiful food, beautiful wines, beautiful drugs, and beautiful people.’
You can keep the drugs, Sterling said to himself. ‘Good.’ He said aloud. ‘That court made me feel dirty. I need to get out to sea and let the wind blow all that dirt away.’
The yacht in question was an eighty metre, four deck, Blohm and Voss Golden Odyssey. Sterling had christened her Sterling Stuff. She had cost him two hundred million dollars. He had another one on order for his wife’s birthday. She and her idiot friends can stay out of my hair then, he thought as he boarded the white and green liveried vessel.
His arrival was greeted by loud cheering from scores of his acquaintances, friends, business partners, well-wishers, and useful hangers on. His enemies numbers as many. Sterling didn’t care. He liked to be surrounded by the mega rich. As soon as his feet had touch the deck, the crew cast off and the vessel put to sea.
They took with them six explosive charges.
The Sterling Stuff boasted two swimming pools: a twelve metre pool on the forward sun deck, and a six metre one on the lower stern deck. There were two charges place beneath this pool: close to the steel flange that secured the prop shaft housings to the stern bulkhead. Two more charges were concealed beneath the twin engines fuel feeds. The remaining two charges were concealed behind the bridgehouse navigation and steering controls console. Each charge consisted of a battery powered travel clock circuitry wired to one hundred grams of PETN.
Sixty minutes after the Sterling Stuff had motored out to sea, the two charges in the lower deck detonated and blew away the stern. Less than a second later, the remaining four charges blew in sequence; ignited the fuel system, and destroyed the communication and navigation systems.
In accordance with the explosive sequence, the stern of the crippled vessel sank rapidly beneath the waves.
The Sterling Stuff should have sunk like a stone. But a freak wave hit the rising hull and caused the vessel to turn turtle. Trapped air belched from the vessel in a series of ever decreasing geysers. Then the Sterling Stuff settled upside down on the water.
Those revellers who had been thrown into the sea, tried vainly to scramble onto the upturned hull. Those trapped inside the stricken vessel were doomed.
One of them was Richard Sterling.
Sterling was trapped naked inside a shower cubicle in absolute darkness.
The cubicle was rapidly filling with water.
He could feel the shower head beneath his thighs.
He was upside down.
He cried out in fear.
The water was rising.
The sound of his fear terrified him.
He scrambled to his feet.
The water reached his thighs and kept on rising.
He pushed hard against the cubicle door.
But the rapidly growing water pressure was too great.
The door did not budge.
The water reached his waist.
He pressed his back to the door and his hands on the wall and pushed back with all of his considerable weight.
The door did not budge.
The water level reached his chest.
Terror threatened to overwhelm him.
He stood up straight.
The water reached his chin.
He went up on his toes.
The water reached his mouth.
He pressed his nose against the granite shower tray. I’m going to drown.
But the water stopped rising.
The upturned vessel had settled on the surface of the water.
Maybe I can hold out.
He was unable to bear his own weight.
He took a deep breath and lowered his heels.
He braced his hands against the cubicle walls, went up on his toes, and exhaled slowly.
Time and again he did the same thing.
Could he hold out until rescue arrived?
Did anyone know?
He felt dizzy and light headed. His arms and leg shook with the strain of supporting his own weight.
I’m going to die.
He thought of all that he had: all that he was leaving behind. The island, the yacht, the plane, the mansions, the houses, the apartments; the global companies and businesses, the billions of dollars, the cars, the race horses, the fine clothes, the fine food, the fine wines, the fine woman.
In his final moment, Richard Sterling thought of all he had in the world. And he knew that he would gladly give it all away in exchange for just one more mouthful of air.